MARCH 2021 FOX HUNT, March 13, 2021
On Saturday, March 13, 2021 the Mississippi Radio Direction Finding Association held its first monthly Fox Hunt. At 9:00 am 8 vehicles with a total of 15 people arrived at the starting location, the parking Bass Pro Shop parking lot in Pearl.
One of those vehicles and persons could not stay for the hunt, but dropped by to drop off some extra tape measure yagis for persons who might need to borrow one. Two other vehicles with three persons in them came to just observe the hunt. One of the observers was the President of Meridian Amateur Radio Club. He plans to host a Fox Hunt or T-Hunt for his club in the near future and we plan to help him.
The remaining five vehicles containing eleven persons actually participated in the hunt. K1REZ and his youngest son served as the Fox and everyone else participated as the Hounds. After a brief orientation to the rules and parameters of the event, the Fox drove off getting a short head start before he released the hounds to begin hunting.
Since the Fox had to alternate one minute of non-stop transmission followed by five minutes of radio silence and keep repeating that cycle until all of the hounds had found him, the Fox decided to get creative with his transmissions. After the usual taunts to the hounds to find him, he began reading to them from his favorite selections of Shakespeare, interspersed with favorite poems, scripture verses, and 1970’s song lyrics. It was a virtual education in Early Rez Eclecticism.
The Fox drove around briefly in direction intended to mislead the Hounds, but soon headed for his intended hiding spot. The Fox’s Lair was supposed to be in a parking lot on top of a big hill in Pearl, MS just west of the new Pearl High School, beside Soccer Fields, Baseball Fields and a Golf Course. However, soon after arriving in the empty parking lot it began to fill up with cars of parents and kids kids attending a soccer game,. The Fox’s car was soon lost in the middle of a sea of other vehicles. To make it easier to have everyone hangout in close proximity to the Fox for the award ceremony, the Fox drive out of the parking lot and down the hill to the empty baseball fields. He back up slightly behind a hill to make it a bit harder to see him. The intended dynamics of the signal the Fox had meant to send out were greatly changed and reflected by his under the hill hiding spot. In fact all of the Hounds drove by on the top of the hill passing the unseen Fox down below them. Some of them passed by on the hill up to an hour before they finally located him. Had the parking lot on top of the hill remained empty and the Fox had parked there, the hunters would have no doubt found him a lot sooner and in a slightly different finding order. Every hiding spot presents unique challenges and unique opportunities, making every Fox Hunt or T-Hunt a unique and rewarding experience.
Everyone had a great time during the hunt. After everyone had found the Fox, we chatted for a while. A few of the participants shared their Fox Hunt adventure stories with us. Then we held a brief awards ceremony and took photographs.
Vernon (KI5HGX) and his wife, Sarah won the first place medal with the lowest mileage accrued during the hunt. They were also the first to find the Fox arriving about an hour before everyone else. This was their second radio direction finding event and their second first place, so they have definitely developed a good hunt strategy and put together some good tools to work with. I have a photograph of Vernon standing on top of the passenger seat, straight up through the sun roof of his Jeep Wrangler, holding a tape measure yagi in one hand and a curious looking cigar box, which he is staring at, in his other hand. That cigar box was used to win their first T-Hunt and has since become the signature symbol of their success. Our sources have revealed to us the carefully guarded secret contents of that mysterious cigar box. It contains a home brewed Software Defined Radio receiver (SDR) consisting of a Raspberry Pi, a Nooelec NESDR dongle, the free Cubic SDR software, and several cables running out of the side of the box. This unique rig allows the signal to be tuned, seen on a spectrum, and attenuated. A very unique set up for sure!
Jack (K5FIT) and his wife won the second place medal, with the second lowest mileage. They were also the second to find the Fox arriving about an hour after the first finders. This was their very first radio direction finding event. They used a handheld radio with builtin attenuation and a home brewed tape measure yagi antenna. They also used one of K1REZ’s favorite secret weapons, the SigTrax smart phone ap, which allows users to dispense with paper maps, by drawing multiple triangulation bearings on a map on their smart phone.
Don (N5SPJ) and his wife Melissa won the third place medal, with the third lowest mileage. They were the fourth to find the Fox, proving that in a Fox Hunt speed does not determine the winners, only good solid radio direction finding skills does. I am waiting on word form them as to the equipment they used and will add it here as some as I hear back from them.
Kyle (KI5JCL) and his wife Barbara and daughter Evie were the fourth in mileage, but were the third to find the Fox. This was their very first radio direction finding event. If we had been going by speed they would have won a third place medal, but we went by mileage during this event to reduce the tendency to speed and to reward good clean radio direction finding techniques, primarily meaning triangulation. They used a tape measure yagi which Kyle built the week before the event, along with an HT and a commercially purchased offset attenuator. They drove a good bit more miles than the other participants, but won the consolation prize of knowing they are well on their way to becoming fine radio direction finders.
Everyone had a good time, and did a great job of finding the Fox within the two hour time limit. And the radio direction finding skills they honed in the process may one day come in handy for tracking down harmful interference.
The Mississippi Radio Direction Finding Association plans to host at least one T-Hunt and one Fox Hunt every month.
We have several other types of fun RDF events planned as well. Once we have received enough funds to purchase six specialized transmitters we plan to host an official Internationally sanctioned ARDF event. We have plans for a fun Man Hunt (a portable Fox Hunt) through the woods and trails of a Mississippi State Park. We also have plans for a four course (Appetizers, Soup/Salad, Entree, Dessert) Progressive Dinner Christmas Party, in which you have to use your radio direction finding skills to find the location of each course. Check out our calendar at MSRDF.com periodically for updates on future radio direction finding events
If you are interested in supporting our efforts to grow radio direction finding in Mississippi please consider joining the MSRDF association. 100% of association dues and donations goes toward purchasing event transmitters, loaner equipment, and the equipment that International ARDF rukles require.
If your amateur radio club or emcomm group would like for the Mississippi Radio Direction Finding Association to host a Fox Hunt or T-Hunt in your area, or give a presentation on Radio Direction Finding to your club, please send an email to info@ARDF.com
FOX HUNTERS RELATE THEIR HUNTING EXPERIENCES
Our Experience in the March 13 Fox Hunt
I had only been involved in one small walking fox hunt before this one but was excited to see how well my home made Yagi antenna would work. I bought an offset attenuator to use with the antenna and since none of my HT radios have a signal meter I decided to use my old trusty Radio Shack Model 95 Pro scanner as a receiver. There is no signal meter but it has a built in attenuator you can turn on and off with a button.
My wife and I arrived at the start point, registered and got our instructions. Once the fox left and started transmitting I immediately got a strong signal and a general direction. Once we were freed to pursue I would find a strong signal and take a bearing using the SigTrax app on my phone to try to get enough bearings to triangulate once the fox stopped moving.
We spent some time driving around and taking signals. I made a mistake with the SigTrax app and accidentally deleted all my bearings I had taken (and not saved as I should) so I decided to go old school and do it by ear. The transmit signal from the fox was very strong and covered a large arc of direction so I took the scanner off the Yagi and used the body block technique with the rubber duck antenna, off some and on some, and used the attenuator built into the scanner. Using this technique to find the null and a general direction we knew we were getting closer. Most of the hounds were struggling a bit so the fox gave one hint and we were within a few hundred yards at that time and closing in. I think we would have found him without the hint before much longer but it did let us know we were in the vicinity.
My wife and I both enjoyed the experience and look forward to the next one.
Our First Fox Hunt
After the fun experience of the February T hunt, we were excited and nervous to try a hunt with a mobile Fox. With the Fox on the move, as soon as he released the Hounds to start hunting, we were a bit surprised when everyone almost immediately engaged the chase leaving us alone in the starting area. Being a ‘lowest mileage wins’ event, our strategy was to move only when we were confident of a good bearing and if possible, drive the bearing instead of triangulating.
As we started the hunt and moved closer to the Fox into a more populated area, we noticed folks giving us strange looks as we stood up thru the open roof swinging around in circles. The only way to get more attention would be if we were wearing tin foil hats. At the one hour mark and our 4th stop we were confident we had either come down a dead end path or we were right on top of the Fox. Luckily for us, 100 yards away around the next curve we found the Fox. As we waited for the other competitors to arrive and see who had the lowest mileage, we relaxed and enjoyed the Fox taunting the Hounds.
It was good to meet folks and be able to put faces with callsigns and names. We had a great time on our first fox hunt and plan on attending more events.
The MSRDF Fox Hunt on March 13, 2021
I recently had the opportunity to participate in my first fox hunt. I have been a licensed amateur radio operator for less than a year and have been having a series of "firsts" and this is another one. Due to the events of 2020 there haven't been many in person events to participate in as a new radio operator. As things are settling down a bit in 2021 a Fox Hunt was a great way to do an event but stay socially distanced.
The fox was off and transmitting a very strong signal. My yagi worked great and I was able to identify the direction the signal was coming from using two different locations. Unfortunately my map and general direction sense were not up to par with my yagi's performance. The bearing lines I drew on my map to begin my triangulation sent me astray. Several stops and readings later I was able to work myself back close. Unfortunately the fox's signal was still very strong and my offset attenuator was not up to the task. This led to a bit of wandering, but I was eventually able to stumble upon the fox.
While my performance was not what I expected, I learned a lot from this experience and most importantly had a lot of fun with my family along for the ride. I will have a compass, better map, and probably a phone app or two to help my triangulation skills the next time around. I am already looking forward to it.
- Kyle Conway, KI5JCL
My Expereicne in the MSRDF Fox Hunt March 13, 2021
Don Loper, N5SPJ
The day’s hunt began with the sign in and logging of mileage on Saturday morning by 9:15 am. The process began much earlier in the week for the day’s hunt. I was definitely not as prepared as I should have been, but we arrived with not a lot of extra time to spare and got signed in and received our instructions for the hunt. I chose a myriad of antennas I had on hand, none of them being a 2M antenna. The antennas I took with me were in the 700 – 800 MHz range. They were Yagi’s so I would obtain the directivity, but with them being well out of the operation range we were hunting for helped to attenuate the signal since I did not have an attenuator of any type. My arsenal included an SDR dongle and a couple of handhelds. I had one handheld attached to a magnetic antenna on the top of the car, and I started playing with the different antennas which included a military surplus antenna marked “Confidential” that was supposed to be highly directional. After trying a couple of the antennas, I settled on one that gave me a relatively decent signal and had good directionality. Not knowing how well my equipment all worked together and not having tested the antennas with it could have worked against me more than it did, however we headed off in the first general direction after the “Hounds” were released. Trying to keep our mileage down we went in a general direction, took another reading and headed off again, only to find that this direction was misleading. We backtracked and got back on the correct general path to the Fox. As we got close the Fox had to relocate because of several vehicles parking near him and obscuring his location even more. I believe that we were getting several readings that were mis-leading because it appeared the signal was bouncing. I switched to my handheld later in the hunt and continued homing in on the Fox with it. One thing I would have liked to have had was a radio or receiver with an analog meter. The digital ones indicate a change by lighting multiple segments at a time to indicate a rise or turning off a group of segments at a time indicating a fall in the signal, the analog meter would have given a more gradual change making it easier to see the changes. The last time I had to locate a transmitter, it was for my work and I utilized my service monitor as the receiver and it has an analog meter on it making it much easier to see changes in the signal levels.
By this time our Fox (K1REZ) had become sleepy and his transmissions were farther apart. Actually, the first finders had arrived and distracted him. We made one more reading and headed in his direction making us the last to arrive. But fear not, even though we were the last to arrive, after the mileage was tallied we were actually in third place.
When planning to participate in one of these events, find a known transmitter, this could be a friend’s station, a National Weather Service transmitter, ATIS system at the airport or other known source with continuous or frequent transmissions. Take your equipment and make several tests and see how your equipment interacts with each other and how well the directionality of your antenna is. Move to several different locations and take readings and check that against your known location of the transmitter you are testing with. All of these things will help hone your hunting skills and help you to know your equipment and how all the pieces interact with each other better. One last thing is a good map or mapping system to plot your readings onto. This would have helped immensely had we had one covering the area with us.
- Don Loper, N5SPJ
FOX HUNT DETAILS - MARCH 13, 2021
What: Fox Hunt
Type: Mobile (No walking required at the end)
Rounds: One Round
Event Start: Saturday, March 13, 2021, 9:00 am
Event End: After all of the Hounds have found the Fox and the awards have been handed out.
Starting Location: The northeast corner of the Bass Pro Shop parking lot in Pearl, MS
Starting Coordinates: Approximately N 32 16.271 W 90 8.911
Registration: 9:00 - 9:15 am. After arriving at the starting location, all of the Hounds (hunters) will be required to register by giving the Fox their call-sign, name, vehicle make, and vehicle odometer reading. Hounds who do not wish to get out of their vehicles, may register by contacting the Fox over the radio using the Fox Hunt Frequency: 146.565 simplex. You are advised to arrive early, because registration ends at 9:15 am. Only registered folks will be counted as participants, finders, and receive ranking and awards.
Cost: Always Free of Charge
Fox Head Start: 9:15 am. At this time, the Fox will begin driving under radio silence to establish a good head start. All of the Hounds must remain at the above stated starting location until the Fox begins transmitting.
Hounds Released to Hunt: After about 10 minutes, depending upon how much of a head start traffic has allowed him, the Fox will begin transmitting. As soon as the Fox begins transmitting, the Hounds are free to leave the starting location and begin hunting. Of course, they should take good bearings on the Fox before driving off.
Fox Transmissions: From this point, until the end of the event (after everyone has found the Fox), the Fox will alternate 1 minute of continuous transmission, followed by 5 minutes of radio silence.
The Fox Hides: After between 10 and 15 minutes of driving around (possibly in directions intended to mislead the Hounds), the Fox will park at his intended hiding spot and continue his transmissions.
The Fox: K1REZ
Fox Transmitter Frequency: 146.565 simplex
Transmitter Power: The Fox will start out transmitting with 30 watts, eventually dropping it down to 10 watts, and then finally dropping it down to 5 watts.
Antenna Polarization: Vertical
Ranking & Awards: Since this is a Fox Hunt (not a T-Hunt), ranking will NOT be determined by the order in which the Hounds find the Fox, but instead by the mileage accrued by each vehicle in pursuit of the Fox. This encourages the Hounds to use good radio direction finding skills, take good bearings, and triangulate on the Fox, rather than just chase off after the signal indiscriminately without a plan. Basically, efficiency will be rewarded over speed. However, any ties will be broken by the order in which the vehicles find the Fox.
1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals will be awarded to the three highest ranking vehicles (lowest accrued mileage). Only one medal per vehicle. If you don't want to share the victory or a medal with anyone else, hunt by yourself.
The top ranked finder (everyone in the vehicle) will also receive a free 2021 membership in the Mississippi Radio Direction Finding Association.
All of the individual finders who are members of MSRDF will also receive participation points toward framable certificates.
For COVID safety, each medal has already been placed in a zip-lock bag and not been touched by human hands for several weeks. Each of those individual, medal bags have already been placed inside a larger gallon size zip-lock bags. During the award ceremony, K1REZ will simply dump the smaller medal containing bag out of its larger bag onto the hood of his car for each of the winners to grab. Or he can dump it into any container/bag which the winners bring with them, if they prefer. That way no one will have to worry about corona-virus being on their medal.
Teams: Everyone riding inside of the same vehicle, whether one person or 15 persons, throughout the entire event is consider one team. If you have three or more folks in your vehicle, you might consider giving them separate jobs: Driver, Navigator (map), Antenna Operator, etc.
Cooperation: Teams or individuals in one vehicle may not coordinate or assist other teams or individuals in other vehicles until after the Fox has released them to do so. The Fox usually does this after a certain percentage of the Hounds have found him or after a certain period of time has elapsed without him being found. Remember, the finding order does not necessarily mean you have won or lost. It all depends upon the mileage each vehicle has accrued and you wont know that until after everyone has found the Fox.
Help: We want everyone to find the Fox. So after a certain period of time, anyone needing help finding the Fox will be given progressively easier clues as to his location by the Fox. If necessary, the Fox will give his exact location by coordinates, address, other details, or driving directions.
Conversion Factor: No Conversion Factor will be required for this first Fox Hunt
Hunt Boundary: Rankin County.
Boundary Map: if you plan to Triangulate on the Fox, then you will need to bring your own Street Map. You might prefer to use an electronic map (GPS, Smart Phone, Google, Ipad, laptop, etc,). Or you might prefer to use a commercially printed map (the Rankin County Map or a DeLorme Mississippi Atlas). Or you might prefer to make or print your own paper map of Rankin County. Paper maps are great for manually drawing bearings on. However, there are now software programs and a few smart phone Aps which allow you to draw bearings on electronic maps. If you don't have a map, then you will need to have a good idea of Rankin County in your mind, and which roads will take you in various directions.
Rules: We state these rules here in order to avoid any potential future unpleasantness at our events. While there is a competitive part to this event, it is primarily designed to help you develop and test your radio direction finding skills, while having fun. So lighten up, don't take the competitive part too seriously, focus on building RDF skills, and enjoy yourself. Don’t do or say anything which might ruin the other participants’ enjoyment of this event. Don't speed, trespass, or break any local, county, state, or federal laws in your pursuit of the Fox. Please abide by all written and verbal rules and decisions given by our website and the Hunt Master, and in his absence the Fox. The decisions of the Hunt Master, and in his absence the Fox, are final. No complaining, arguing, or grumbling. Individuals and/or teams who cheat or break the rules will be disqualified from the event and potentially banned from future events. We know none of you will do any of these things, but we had to state them up front.
The Fox’s Lair (hiding spot) could be anywhere inside of Rankin County. That’s a lot of territory to hide in and a lot of territory to hunt in. However, its a good simulation of what it is like hunting for someone transmitting intentional harmful interference (QRM). Because of the hunt large area, your job is to try not to lose the Fox’s signal. If you do lose his signal, drive around the county systematically, until you pick it back up again. Remember, the Fox will transmit for one minute continuously, then there will be five minutes of radio silence before he transmits again. Don’t confuse his five minutes of radio silence with loosing his signal.
The Fox will be transmitting over a vertical antenna. This vertical polarization means that he wont be able to trick you with reflected signals as easily as he could with a beam antenna pointed toward a hill or building. However, it also means that folks using yagis (and quads) to hunt with, will need to hold them so that the elements are vertically polarized instead of horizontally polarized, for the best db gain signal reception.
As you get close to the Fox, the signal will get stronger and stronger. A certain amount of attenuation will keep the increasingly strong signal from saturating your radio and pinning your S meter to its highest setting. Attenuation can be accomplished by several means: using the Body Fade Technique of holding an HT radio close to your chest while pivoting around to increase the signal null behind you. Taking the antenna off the radio and using a straightened paper clip for an antenna have both been used successfully to attenuate the signal. Of course connecting a purchased or home-brewed Step Attenuator or an Offset Attenuator (especially if you have a dual band radio) would also come in handy when closing in on the Fox.
The best method for finding a stationary Fox is the same as for finding a hidden transmitter in a T-Hunt. It is called Triangulation: Drive to 3 different areas at angles to each other in the boundary zone. Take bearings on the Fox from each of those areas. Take a map of the area and plot (draw) on it the three bearing lines. The area inside where the three lines cross on the map is where the Fox is hiding. Drive to that area and repeat the process. Each time the area will shrink greatly, eventually revealing the exact location of the Fox.
However, Fox Hunts were designed to throw a monkey wrench in regular T-Hunt triangulation strategy, at least at the start of the hunt, by having the Fox drive around while transmitting for about 10 to 15 minutes. This means each of the Hounds has to decide whether to begin chasing the Fox while he is driving or wait until his signal settles down and is only coming from one direction (meaning he has parked at his intended destination). Many factors affect this decision, including how much power the Fox is transmitting with, the question of whether it is possible that you might lose his signal if you wait at the starting location too long, etc. I will leave it to each of you to decide your best strategy in this regard.
The more Fox Hunts and T-Hunts you participate in the better your direction finding knowledge and skills will become. By participating regularly in our monthly events, you will hone your skills, improve your strategy and tactics, and eventually become an expert at radio direction finding.
For more details and Fox Hunt Rules visit: MSRDF.com
Send Questions to: info@MSRDF.com